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In 4/4 I would count 8th note triplets this way:

1-tri-plet 2-tri-plet 3-tri-plet 4-tri-plet

But in 4/4 you only get 6 quarter note triplets so how would you count this?

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  • Are you asking about 3 quarter notes tuplet in the time of 2 quarter notes/half note? Oct 2 '20 at 15:06
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In 4/4 I would count 8th note triplets this way:

1-tri-plet 2-tri-plet 3-tri-plet 4-tri-plet

I think you mean... enter image description here

...which I count aloud like "tri-pl-et tri-pl-et..." or "one and a two and a..."

But in 4/4 you only get 6 quarter note triplets so how would you count this?

"...quarter note triplets..." I think you mean a tuplet of 3 quarter notes in the time of two...

enter image description here

...that's a bit different, because you get the hemiola. You have the matter of what syllables to say (but that isn't standardized) and more importantly how to time the hemiola.

For the timing you look for the least common multiple, in this case six, and then take care to strike at the right times to get the correct composite rhythm...

half note level             : x
3 tuplet level              : x   x   x
least common multiple count : 1 2 3 4 5 6
quarter note level          : x     x

...the critical part is after the first beat at count 3 4 5 where the straight and tuplet parts alternate strikes.

You might notice that the actual rate of the least common multiple count (of six per half note) is the same as the triplet division on the beat, 3 subdivisions per beat, total of 12 for the measure. I don't know if this will help or confuse, but you can think of the hemiola rhythm like the basic triplet rhythm but with ties that sort of syncopate the strikes...

enter image description here

...the point of that is to get a clear visual of the placement of the strikes with the count of 1 2 3 4 5 6. 2, 4 and 6 are silent, they're sort of tied in the treble. You could think of the timing in terms of triplets on the quarter note so 5 just become 2 of the second beat...

enter image description here

As far as syllables for hemiola goes there are various things people suggest, like "cold cup of tea," but you can make up whatever suits you.

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  • “one-and-a two-and-a…” is how I've always done it. (“Tri-pl-et tri-pl-et…” can't work in standard English, where it has only two syllables!) A drummer friend of mine says “sau-sa-ges sau-sa-ges…”, but that seems a bit unwieldy.
    – gidds
    Oct 3 '20 at 15:49
  • 1
    "Tri-puh-let" works just fine.
    – shoover
    Oct 4 '20 at 2:32
  • @gidds, sure, grammatically and in "proper" singing "triplet" is two syllables. But, I'm American... I don't speak standard English :-) You just hold the tongue on the "L" for a moment. Or, do it like [at]shoover said. It's kind of like when singers sustain an "N" consonant. It isn't "proper", but some do it. Oct 5 '20 at 17:41
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If you're asking about what syllables to use for the six notes, there's no standard. There's no way to use the syllables two and four, because none of the six notes corresponds with the second or fourth beat, so I would probably say "one-and-a three-and-a" or "tri-pl-et, tri-pl-et."

A lot of people have trouble getting this rhythm correct, especially if the tempo is relatively slow. I would focus more on that than using any particular set of syllables, which will be of limited value in finding the correct rhythm.

The basic technique is to subdivide the beats into eighth-note triplets and then pair those. When I have to do this, I usually ignore the "1-2-3-4" of the 4/4 meter and count each quarter note beat as "one-two-three, one-two-three." Then I count the pairs as either "one-and-two-and-three-and" or "one-two, one-two, one-two," or "one-two-three-one-two-three."

The problem with "one-tri-plet, two-tri-plet" is that it is very difficult to say quickly because there are two consonant clusters, /tr/ and /pl/. In practice, it's more important to be able to say the syllables easily than it is for them to reflect the meter faithfully.

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One slightly odd but good way to both count this and also conceptualize it is to use every other syllable of the 8th note triplet. It ends up being “triplet” backwards and uses the exact same syllables as the 8th note triplets in their respective positions.

1/8ths: 1-trip-let-2-trip-let-3-trip-let-4-trip-let

1/4’s: 1 - let - trip - 3 - let - trip

You can also ghost count the silent syllables like this to get a really good feel of how they line up wth each other:

1-(trip)-let-(2)-trip-(let)-3-(trip)-let-(4)-trip-(let)

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  • I think you should strengthen this . It's not odd at all, and it's the best option because it uses the OP's accustomed mnemonic. With your okay, I'd like to add a notated illustration to your answer.
    – Aaron
    Oct 2 '20 at 15:27
  • @Aaron Thanks for the offer but the OP knows and understands what quarter note triplets are, he is just looking for a way to verbalize them. I did add one thing, the ghost counting, at the end of my answer but I think it’s good as is. Oct 3 '20 at 1:37
  • Just to clarify, I think your solution is ideal. By "strengthen", I only meant not to soften it by calling it "odd".
    – Aaron
    Oct 3 '20 at 1:46
  • @Aaron, Thanks, I appreciate it. You have to admit it is a bit odd though, saying the word triplet backwards! Oct 3 '20 at 2:31
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Because it feels like the beat has been slowed up somewhat, (even though the pulse actually speeds up), I use 'el-i-phant-el-i-phant' with younger students - it somehow lumbers along at the right pace. Well, you did ask how I would count it !

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The best way is to count at the beginning the quarter notes 1234 and some bars before the triplets only the half notes 1 a 2 a. Then you can speak the quarter triplets like the 8th triplets: 1 triplet 2 triplet, and continue by counting 2/2 or 4/4.

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